U.S. Wind Energy Growing, But Facing Challenges

A wind turbine framed by trees set against a blue sky with wispy clouds
Published On
Sep 27, 2021

While wind generation has been growing significantly in recent years and is expected to continue to grow, that growth will not be without challenges.

The U.S. Department of Energy released three market reports demonstrating record growth in U.S. wind energy over the past year. In 2020, according to the reports, wind energy represented the largest source of additions to electric generating capacity in the U.S., accounting for 42% of new capacity. (The annually updated data tracks installations, technologies, costs, prices, incentives and performance for three wind energy market sectors: distributed, offshore and land-based utility-scale wind.)

The U.S. distributed wind sector includes power from wind turbines installed in proximity to where the power will be used. This sector added 14.7 megawatts (MW) of new distributed wind capacity across 11 states, representing $41 million in investment and bringing total installed capacity to 1,055 MW generated by more than 87,000 wind turbines.

The U.S. offshore wind pipeline grew 24% over the past year. The sector includes 42 MW currently in operation and 35,324 MW in development. In addition, 15 projects in the U.S. offshore wind pipeline have reached the permitting phase, and eight states are aiming to reach offshore wind energy procurement goals totaling 39,298 MW by 2040.

Land-based, utility-scale wind power also increased at a record pace in 2020, with new capacity totaling 16,836 MW and representing $24.6 billion of investment. In addition, according to the report, wind turbines continued to grow in size and power, with the average nameplate capacity (the intended full-load sustained output) of newly installed wind turbines at 2.75 MW—up 8% from 2019.

And it is this increasing nameplate capacity that is causing some of the challenges for the industry, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

The article noted that, while demand for wind turbines this decade is expected to be double what it was 10 years ago, wind turbine manufacturers are struggling with increasing costs. The larger blade sizes have resulted in significantly increased costs and challenges for shipping, while raw material prices for the blades and turbine components have also risen.

Another cause for concern is the federal tax credit for wind generation projects, which is set to expire at the end of this year, and it is not known yet whether the federal government will extend that credit.

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